The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Freelancer
Having been a freelancer for the last four years of my life, I have to say that even though I had to suffer from some of the down sides, I would never go back to a traditional office job with a steady salary.
In my life as a freelancer, I made the most positive professional experiences of my life and I also learnt more things than I ever learned during my years at university and at the companies I worked for as a full-time employee.
All those years of forced learning at school provided me with necessary basic knowledge, but in my freelance years, I was actually able to open my eyes to the world and became aware of its endless opportunities. I am truly satisfied with my life as a freelancer. However, self-employment is not suitable for everyone and you have to expect a long road with multiple obstacles until you reach stability, happiness, and a sense of achievement.
The benefit of being a freelancer that I like the most is the degree of freedom I have in comparison to someone with a permanent position. Working as a freelancer means you can determine your own working hours, have your meals at home (or the location of your choice) and choose where you work. Some prefer to work at home on the couch, others are most productive in cafés, libraries, airplanes or trains. I have personally worked at all of the mentioned locations and I must say that in most cases, the change of scenery was greatly beneficial for my productivity and my mood, provided that I had a quiet working environment without any major distractions.
Working from a Hammock, Why Not?
Being Your Own Boss
This is another great advantage of being a freelancer. Some bosses out there can make you feel miserable and yet you cannot do anything about it because you are dependent on the job. So most of the time you keep everything bottled up inside and take the frustration home with you where your negative feelings can even have an effect on your family life. I remember I lived in fear for three and a half years in a job I hated with co-workers I hated and bosses who made me feel worthless most of the time. When you are a freelancer, you will not ever have to deal with rude bosses, impertinent colleagues or unprofessional clients anymore as you choose with whom and for whom you work. You deal directly with the clients and you can concentrate 100% on your job and your clients' needs instead of trying to satisfy your boss.
If you ever worked as a freelancer, what kind of experiences did you make?
Keep All the Profits
It doesn't matter how extensive the projects are that you are working on; generally the more you work the more you earn. In contrast to a permanent position, you can increase your profits and keep all of them. It all depends on your commitment and the effort you put into your job. You are free to expand your business and reap 100% of the benefits. I must say that in the first few years you will most likely put in a lot of working hours, but the good thing is that you know no one will take credit for your hard work except for yourself.
Payment Default Risk
It has happened to me several times that clients didn't pay me for the job I had done for them. This is actually not uncommon when you are a freelancer but if you take the necessary precautions, you will be able to avoid scams. I have learned how to protect myself from those ungrateful clients and agencies but it took me a few years to figure out how.
Some ways to protect yourself:
- Ask for advance or partial payments from new clients.
- Try to get as much information as possible from your client: location, website, contact details, business registration numbers, feedback from other freelancers, size of the business.
- Call the client and try to find out if he is trustworthy.
- Be especially careful with foreign agencies/clients as legislations are different in other countries.
- Clarify the payment procedure including the amount, the payment deadline and the method of payment.
No Employer Benefits
One of the biggest drawbacks of being is a freelancer is that you won't get any employer benefits, such as health insurance, paid sick days or paid vacation time. So whenever you take time off or stay in bed because you are sick, there is no income. You will have to use your savings in order to make up for the loss of income. Especially at the beginning of your business venture, this can be quite risky.
Long Working Hours
Self-employed people generally work a lot, especially in the first five years of their business. You are in charge of production, administration, customer service, billing, business development, IT, support, advertising and sales. Each of those areas takes up a significant amount of time. While companies have specialists who take care of the work that occurs in each respective department, you are 100% responsible for all departments. That means you are going to spend many hours researching, training yourself and getting work done that is just the support for your business activity. You can focus less on the growth of your business because you have all that extra work to do. Obviously, once you have established yourself, managing all of those areas will be much easier and faster but getting to the point requires a lot of effort and courage.
It is quite hard to have a work-life-balance when you are a freelancer. It is especially hard to distinguish between your personal life and your work life when you work at home as this is your work place and at the same time the place where you eat, sleep and spend time with your family and friends. However, if you stick to some ground rules such as defining a work schedule, getting enough physical exercise every day, only spending time in your work area when you are actually working, and getting out of your pyjamas (this is very important), then you should be good to go.